Pac-12 Game of the Week: Can Utah break the Coliseum Curse?

September 19, 2019 GMT
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Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) breaks from a Northern Illinois tackler in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2019, Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
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Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley (1) breaks from a Northern Illinois tackler in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 9, 2019, Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Here are some things to watch this week in the Pac-12 Conference:

GAME OF THE WEEK: Utah hasn’t won against the Trojans in Los Angeles in more than 100 years. Yep, that’s right, more than a century. The Utes’ last win came in 1916. But No. 10 Utah (3-0) has a chance in its Pac-12 opener to not only break the Coliseum Curse but also establish itself as the team to beat in the Pac-12 South and perhaps even forge a path toward a bid in the College Football Playoff. The Trojans (2-1), with freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis, have already toppled Stanford at home, but they lost last weekend at BYU.

“I guess everyone is entitled to a bad century,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham joked. “This game fortunately, in our opinion, doesn’t have anything to do with the last 100-plus years. It is its own entity, new challenge. History hasn’t been good to us in that place, but we feel it has no bearing on this year.”

MATCHUP OF THE WEEK: Colorado (2-1) made a splash under new coach Mel Tucker with an early victory at home over Nebraska. Now the Buffs are looking for that statement win on the road, and ASU (3-0) presents an opportunity for quarterback Steven Montez, who is averaging just over 275 yards passing per game, third-most in the league. He’s got a good target in Laviska Shenault, who last week caught eight passes for 124 yards and a touchdown and also ran for another score in a loss to Air Force. But the duo will face a stout challenge Saturday in the Sun Devils, who have held their first three opponents to a combined 21 points — the fewest they’ve allowed over a three-game stretch since 1993.

INSIDE THE NUMBERS: Utah running back Zack Moss needs 196 yards rushing to pass Eddie Johnson (3,219) and become the school’s leader. His next game with 100 yards rushing will be the 14th of his career, tying him with John White and Devontae Booker for most in school history. ... Cal has held its last 10 opponents below 24 points, a stretch that began last season. ... Arizona State has scored at least 10 points in 122 straight games, four shy of the FBS modern-era record. ... Washington State is off to a 3-0 start for the third straight year, something that hasn’t happened since 1907-09. The Cougars are also 15-1 at home over the past three seasons. ... Stanford (1-2) hosts Oregon this weekend hoping to avoid its first three-game losing streak since 2008. ... The Ducks haven’t won a conference opener since 2014. ... Washington has allowed an average of just 18 points and 324 yards per game heading into its final nonconference game against BYU.

PLAYER TO WATCH: Washington State running back Max Borghi. The sophomore is only averaging 67.3 yards rushing a game, ranking him 11th in the Pac-12, but he’s making his carries count with four touchdowns, tying him for the lead among conference running backs. He’s also caught six passes for 61 yards. He’s got five total touchdowns this season and is averaging 10 points a game. That could give UCLA headaches this weekend. The Bruins are allowing an average of 188 yards rushing, 10th in the league. They’re allowing 279 passing yards a game, also 10th in the conference.

UPSET WATCH Cal (3-0) could turn out to be the Pac-12′s surprise of the season and the Bears are starting to get some attention after that upset victory over Washington. The Golden Bears face Mississippi this weekend. They haven’t started 4-0 since 2015, while Mississippi (2-1) is seeking its first win over a Top 25 team since beating No. 16 Mississippi State 31-28 in 2017. This totally has the makings of an upset — although Mississippi is just a 2½-point favorite. Cal and Mississippi last faced each other in 2017, when Cal beat the visiting Rebels 27-16.


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